Sommelier Ryan Baldwin tells the story behind a very special French wine
It’s a sign of quality when a sommelier likes a wine producer so much they don’t need to taste its wine before buying some. But, sometimes, for his favorite wines, Ryan Baldwin does just this. “I’ll buy any bottle I come across because of the producer’s strong pedigree,” says Baldwin, Lead Sommelier at the Margeaux Brasserie, Waldorf Astoria Chicago. The wine in question is a bottle of Chardonnay, ‘Goutte d’Or Meursault’, from a small producer in Burgundy, western France, named Arnaud Ente. “It’s one of the most delicious bottles of wine I’ve ever tasted,” says Baldwin. “It has a beautiful honeyed, buttery, nutty richness that lingers on your palate for a long time after each sip. The acidity is elevated enough to reset your palate for richer or creamier dishes, making it quite versatile.” As you’d expect, Baldwin’s expertise stretches to French wine producers of all kinds—fitting, given Margeaux Brasserie’s reputation for serving exquisite French food. So, what is so special about Arnaud Ente’s wines? Much of the answer lies in the land itself.
Let’s imagine we’re heading to the famous subregion of Burgundy, the Côte d’Or (The Golden Slope); this area is broken down into two smaller zones, called the Côte de Nuits (known for Pinot Noir) and the Côte de Beaune (known for highly sought-after Chardonnay). Baldwin is a staunch supporter of “all things Chardonnay,” adoring its versatility. Significantly, the soil around Côte d’Or is soft, chalky limestone, which, explains Baldwin, provides the wine’s minerality. Driving north from the village of Beaune, east-facing hillside vineyards bask in soft sunshine. Indeed, it is the mid-slope vineyards that he believes produce the highest-quality wine, since the lower, flatter vineyards have neither sufficient drainage nor sun. Continuing southwest from Beaune, we arrive at vineyards in Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet, in particular to a Premier Cru vineyard called Goutte d’Or, home of Arnaud Ente. “Meursault does not have any Grand Cru vineyards, so this is basically as good as it gets,” Baldwin says. The domain has been in production since 1992—short in Burgundy terms—but Baldwin insists that Arnaud Ente is a producer to watch because of the precision that goes into each bottle. To say it’s small is no exaggeration; the entirety of this vineyard is five hectares, of which Arnaud Ente owns 0.22. Their wine is made by him and his wife Marie-Odile, with an annual production of 1,250 cases (or 15,000 bottles) split over 11 separate bottlings. “Imagine how little wine they’re producing!” says Baldwin.
After harvesting the grapes by hand, the couple will keep them for a minimum of 12 months in oak barrels, plus an additional six in stainless steel. The wines, according to Baldwin, “remain very fresh and have a remarkable sense of the village they are produced in. They don’t taste like oak, they taste like Meursault.” Once ready, crates of Goutte d’Or Meursault will travel around the world, landing in cellars such as the one at Margeaux Brasserie. Here, Baldwin serves it in large glasses at just below room temperature, and might suggest pairing it with dishes such as Dover Sole Meunière— its flavors match well “with the creamy, brown-butter meunière sauce, as well as the lighter body of the sole. Or pair it with the gravity defying Macaroni Gratinée (macaroni and cheese), whose noodles stand up straight on the plate.” “This wine is a true ‘terroir’ expression,” says Baldwin. “It couldn’t possibly be from anywhere else in the world.” This is a special wine indeed, and Margeaux Brasserie is lucky to be able to show it off.